May 31, 2012
A recent report from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is attracting significant media attention. According to a release from PNNL, U.S. commercial building owners could save an average of 38 per cent on heating and cooling bills if they installed specific energy efficiency controls. Completed for the Department of Energy, the report examined options for improving the efficiency of packaged commercial rooftop units. The estimated savings were based on computer modeling and simulation of building energy usage. The controls that could provide these savings are not widely available commercially, but the report’s authors hope their analysis will encourage manufacturers to expand their production. “The potential savings from adding advanced controls to existing packaged air conditioners with gas furnaces is enormous,” said PNNL engineer Srinivas Katipamula, who led the study. “The estimated savings depend on local climate and energy prices and range from a whopping 67 per cent cost savings in San Francisco to a still-substantial 28 per cent in Seattle.” Katipamula added, “Our report makes a convincing case for manufacturers to produce more advanced HVAC controllers and for building owners to adopt these energy-saving methods.” The team will be testing the estimated savings in the field and will also expand its simulations to include more variables, such as looking at heat pumps to calculate potential energy savings.